Arts / Society

The Ultimate Circus Party

Acrobats and Stunning Ball Gowns Combine to Make This 50th a $600,000 Success

BY // 04.03.17
photography Priscilla Dickson

The only thing missing from this milestone celebration was a cake with loads of candles. Otherwise, the Society for the Performing Arts‘ 50th anniversary gala was, just as the program billed, “The Greatest Show on Earth,” a reflection of the non-profit’s storied programming.

Think aerial artists, a costumed dance team, a hoof meister from Stomp and the rocking sounds of Skyrocket — all presented under a galaxy of streaming Tivoli lights that lit up the Grand Foyer of Wortham Center as never before.

With more than 1,000 performances presented over the decades, SPA is poised to continue its founding mission, that of bringing great artists and programs from around the world to Houston. The $600,000 raised on this night will contribute to the future of the performing arts institution. Applause, applause for chairs Stephany Olsen LeGrand, Curt Karges, and Janet and Bill Swanstrom as well as honorary chairs Katherine and Paul Murphy and Sharon and Tim Taylor for continuing the performing legacy.

The gala honored Brenda and Marc Watts, both of whom have supported SPA for more than 25 years. Their time overlaps with the tenure of Toby Mattox, who served as SPA executive director for 25 years beginning in 1980. Mattox was there to celebrate with SPA CEO June Christensen and past board presidents Steve Lasher, Ginni Mithoff, Steve Trauber, Bobby Tudor, Jim Postl and Melanie Gray, and current board chair Theresa Einhorn.
As captivating as the entertainment and the decor by Bergner & Johnson‘s Rebekah Johnson was, the array of big top-inspired dressing enjoyed as many red gowns as are typically seen at the Heart Ball.

Among those dressing to the beat of a big top drummer were Melanie Gray, Elizabeth Vail, Kathryn Smith, Margaret Alkek Williams, Phoebe Tudor, Stephanie LeGrand Olson, and Hallie Vanderhider in the gown (mind the train) of the night, a billowing red confection by Monique Lhuillier.

The circus theme prevailed throughout the evening even when it came to dinner. Jackson and Company served a clever “caramel apple” filled with roasted duck, stilton and walnuts followed by a braised short ribs entree and an “under the big top” chocolate mousse for dessert. We loved the circus-inspired caramel corn and sugar cookie lions that accompanied the dessert plates.

Rocking under the big top: Lynn Wyatt, Gregory Boyd, Nancy and Chuck Davidson, Anita and Gerald Smith, Linda and Willie Chiang, Claudia and David Hatcher, C.C. and Scott Ensell, Joyce Echols and Steve Wyatt, Donna and Dr. Ben Chu, Eileen Lawal, Fady Armanious, Soraya and Scott McClelland, and Ileana and Michael Trevino.

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